Delta Air Lines says it will debut new “premium economy” seats on international flights next year with more legroom and other creature comforts like an amenity kit and pre-departure beverages.
Delta president Glen Hauenstein has said international premium economy will be targeted at business travelers whose employers may not pay for business class seats, as well as targeting the “mass affluent.”
The addition of a premium economy class on Delta is part of an industry arms race to reap bigger profits from international travelers who are willing to pay more for a higher level of service.
American Airlines is the first U.S. carrier to introduce international premium economy service. Delta's announcement of its plans came as Fort Worth-based American rolls out its first flight Thursday with the new premium economy seats on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Sao Paulo.
Delta's premium economy seats will be available on some of its international flights starting in fall 2017, starting with flights on Delta’s new Airbus A350 “extra wide-body” jets.
The Delta international premium economy seats will have up to 38 inches of pitch, which is a measure of legroom, along with leg rests and the ability to recline up to 7 inches. The seats will also be up to 19 inches wide, according to Delta.
The premium economy service will also come with pre-departure beverage service, a Westin Heavenly brand blanket pillow and TUMI brand amenity kit. It will also include access to Sky Priority lines for check-in and security, as well as priority boarding.
Hauenstein has said premium economy will be distinct from Delta's Comfort+ seats, previously called economy comfort. While Comfort+ seats have extra legroom as their main feature, the premium economy seats also come with a different level of service, as well as different seats.
American's premium economy seats include extra legroom, adjustable seats with leg rests, amenity kits and noise-reducing headphones.
Delta’s international partners Virgin Atlantic and Air France already have premium economy class. And some foreign competitors such are known for a much higher level of service on international flights for the most expensive seats, with amenities like a bed with turndown service in Singapore Airlines suites and a first class shower suite on Emirates.
Delta’s A350s will have 48 premium economy seats, in addition to 32 Delta One business class “suites” and 226 Main Cabin coach class seats. The premium economy seats will be added to Delta’s Boeing 777s starting in 2018.